Nothing like arthritis to make a person feel old. Creak, pop, stttreeetch. Can’t pick up this, can’t twist off that. Oops! Knee jammed up again.
Driving home from physical therapy yesterday, I was not feeling 46. I was 102 with sore arms and one badass mood. I drove past Studio XIII on my way to the post office, and as always happens when I see Studio XIII – like a fluff of air – I think the same brief passing thought: ‘Hmmmm…a nose ring.’
I parked in front of the post office and thought about the night Cassie had her belly button pierced at Studio XIII. It was 2000 and she was 16. I went with her to sign the consent form, and lest you think me a horrible mother, I challenge you to spend an hour with Cassie. If that girl doesn’t convince you to see her side of any given subject, you are not human. Seriously. Cassie was born debating.
For instance, when she was 3 years old, her sister Carlene was 5 and I’d agreed to let Carlene get her ears pierced. Cassie begged to have her ears pierced, too. I said yes, but six weeks later when it was time to take out the studs and put in real earrings, she cried before I even touched her ears, so we let the holes grow shut.
When she was 4, Cassie insisted she was a big girl and would let me change her earrings if I let her get her ears pierced again. Six weeks later, she cried when I removed the studs, and we let the holes grow shut.
In kindergarten, Cassie was super jealous of her older sister who got to wear all kinds of fun earrings and so she promised, promised, PROMISED she would let me take out her earrings if I let her get them pierced AGAIN. I told her that if she didn’t let me change her earrings in six weeks, that she wasn’t getting anything else pierced until she was 16. She agreed. So I took her to Claire’s Boutique. Again. And finally, FINALLY, six weeks later, she let me change them. And – bonus! – she didn’t cry.
When she turned 16, Cassie reminded me of what I’d said when she was in kindergarten and said she wanted something else pierced. Not only is the girl an incredible debater, she has a mind like a steel trap. She remembers EVERYTHING. Takes after my mother.
…Sigh…OK, I figured she’d want a few more holes in her ears. Nope. She wanted something below the neck. She wanted a belly button ring. …Sigh…Fine. Whatever. I told her that if she paid for it, I’d sign the paper. I believe her exact response was, “Goody!”
Glen the Master Piercer at Studio XIII was calm and reassuring. Cassie would be fine, he said, and as he prepped her belly for the ring, commented on what great belly button skin she had. Perfect for piercing. All I could think of was how much trouble that dang thing gave me when when she was born.
A baby might not come with an instruction booklet, but she goes home from the hospital with part of her umbilical cord still attached. You have to clean it, tuck in her diaper, use Q-tips and Betadine…geez, like I wasn’t nervous enough about dropping her.
I followed the hospital instructions to a T and still Cassie’s belly button got infected. I was sure it was going to kill her. Not to mention, it STUNK. Peeeuuuu. Frantic, I called her doctor who prescribed a little stronger antibiotic. In a few days it dried up and fell off. I threw it away, not wanting to keep any vestiges of failed motherhood. But 16 years later watching her get it pierced, I wished I’d saved it.
Throughout the following nine years, Cassie had her tongue, nipple and nose pierced and Carlene had her tongue pierced and ears pierced in strange places, all of which they’ve allowed to grow shut, except for Cassie’s nose piercing.
As the timer ran out on the parking meter, I tried to connect to that unexplainable urge to get my nose pierced. I thought about Cassie and all the other people I know who have a nose ring. They aren’t Bohemian or angry, defiant or ignorant. The little stud in their nose fits their face and personality. It’s like a mark of confidence. Of ownership of place in the world.
My desire for a nose ring didn’t stem from coveted youth or anger of regret. I just wanted to make a statement of faith with my nose. A small physical pronouncement of where I am in relation to where I’ve been. I’m a person with a whole lot of arthritis, who often feels older than I am, but deep down inside I know there is peace, contentment and confidence if I just remember to tap into it.
I turned the car around and drove to Studio XIII. Glen was there, as kind and reassuring as he was 9 years ago. I put on my big girl panties and sat on the table. As the needle penetrated the cartilage, so, too, did the physical pain penetrate the emotional pain. It brought forth a confidence I hadn’t felt in a long, long while and I felt the peace I knew was inside me but I’d nearly abandoned.